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Captivans attend hurricane education seminar

By Staff | May 12, 2011

It seems most people will be insouciant about making themselves ready for a hurricane — until one occurs.

To better prepare island homeowners for the upcoming hurricane season, which begins June 1, the Captiva Hurricane Preparation and Response Committee and Lee County Library sponsored a hurricane education program with a special speaker at South Seas Island Resort.

Gerald Campbell, chief planner for Lee County Emergency Management, addressed some changes in hurricane watch and warning announcements issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

A watch announcement will be issued 48 hours in advance of the possible onset of tropical-storm-force winds – sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or higher. A warning announcement will be given 36 hours in advance of when conditions are expected to reach within the specified coastal area.

“Twelve hours have been gained,” said Campbell about the previous watches and warnings issued. “Hurricanes are the same; evacuation will be the same, but the perception of them has changed.”

With seven presidentially-declared disasters under his belt as chief planner, Campbell noted he normally can’t say there are any differences in how hurricane preparedness is treated. He stressed to the small crowd that history is not necessarily an indicator of the future – as in previous hurricane seasons are not reliable sources to predict the future.

“Hurricanes are a fact of life in Florida,” he said. “One will come and one will be big.”

All residents can do is be armed with a plan.

“Good luck does not equal a good plan,” he said.

Last year was a busy hurricane season, but fortunately none made it to landfall in the United States. While meteorologists are estimating 15 to 16 named storms with eight or nine developing into hurricanes during the 2011 season, barrier island homeowners should at least be prepared.

However, preparation goes beyond the landfall of a hurricane. Following a storm, residents must have a pass to cross Sanibel and enter Captiva after an evacuation has occurred. The committee prepared a letter, which acts as a pass to return to the island. It ensures authorized people return to check on properties, especially those with owners who are north during the season.

“It protects the homeowners,” noted committee member Doris Holzheimer

If you have already submitted a letter in the past, there is no need to re-submit it this year, unless there have been changes. Any letters that have not been completed and returned can be faxed to the fire department at 472-0247.

In addition, the Captiva Hurricane Preparation and Response Committee is looking for a volunteer with computer skills to help maintain its Web site. Anyone who is interested in taking on the task should call Holzheimer at 513-871-6822.